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FISH 503 - Science & Society in Aquatic Policy

This research guide listing a selection of available resources was created for FISH 503 students by librarians in the Law Library.

Legislative Process

Before a proposed bill - either federal or provincial - is introduced, a policy decision has been made that legislation is necessary. This may be either by way of new legislation or by statutory amendment of existing legislation.

A policy decision may come about in different ways, e.g.:

  • based on a government background paper,
  • based on a research report commissioned by a Ministry,
  • based on a law reform commission report advocating change,
  • as a result of a court case pointing to deficiencies in existing legislation, or
  • as a result of public pressure from an interest group.

Interest groups include: West Coast Environmental Law, Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Club Legal Defence Fund), Greenpeace Canada and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Look for links to their publications on their websites.

Once the policy decision has been made, the sponsoring Minister prepares a submission to Cabinet, advocating the introduction of a Bill. Once Cabinet gives approval, the Bill is drafted by Legislative Counsel.

How a Bill Becomes an Act:

Provincial Bills

Before a provincial Bill becomes an Act and effective law, it must pass three Readings in the Legislature.

  • 1st Reading - the formal introduction of a Bill to the Legislature
    At First Reading, there is usually little comment made about the Bill.
  • 2nd Reading - discussion of the principle or 'legislative intent' behind the Bill.
    The Second reading Debate can be an important source for determining the government policy initiative behind a Bill.
  • Committee Stage - a Legislative Committee studies the Bill, giving it clause by clause detailed consideration. The Committee may or may not prepare a Report on the Bill.
  • 3rd Reading - final reading of a Bill; there is often no debate at Third Reading.
  • Royal Assent - formal approval given to a Bill by the Queen's representative (Lieutenant Governor) after passing Third Reading.

As soon as a Bill receives Royal Assent, it becomes an Act and is assigned a chapter number for inclusion in the Statutes volumes. Once a Bill has become an Act, it should no longer be referred to by Bill number.

BC's legislative process is explained in:
Nash, Legislation Made Easy, 3d ed.
LAW LIBRARY reference room & KOERNER LIBRARY reference: JL430 .N37 2010
- See Progress of Bills (Acts) and Progress of Regulations.

Differences Between the Provincial & Federal Legislative Process

  • Provincial Bills must pass 3 readings in the Legislature
  • Federal Bills must pass 3 readings in both the House of Commons and the Senate before they receive Royal Assent and become Acts
  • Most federal Bills begin in the House of Commons, pass 3 readings, then move to the Senate for 3 readings; however, a few Bills begin in the Senate, pass 3 readings, then move to the House of Commons for 3 readings

A federal Bill's origin is indicated by the letter prefix in front of the Bill number: 
C- (House of Commons Bill) or S- (Senate bill).

For further explanation there is an excellent guide to the federal Legislative Process.